Apple Has Announced New App Store Changes, Communication Rules, Small Developer Assistance Fund and More

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Apple has gone ahead and announced a handful of changes that are coming to the App Store. These changes are being announced in response to a class-action lawsuit from various U.S. developers. One of the most notable changes is that developers can now communicate with users about alternative payment solutions outside the application.

This class-action lawsuit was first filed in 2019, and this is not the Epic vs. Apple case we are talking about but a similar lawsuit filed against Apple by a bunch of small developers. These changes to the App Store apply to all developers on the App Store in the U.S. and other countries.

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It is important to note that Apple has said that developers can "use communications such as email, to share information about payment methods that are outside of their iOS App." This means that a company or a developer can email the users with their consent to inform them about subscribing to a service outside of the App Store.

Apple has confirmed that this change will not apply to in-app communications. Developers are still not allowed to inform users in-app about pricing or subscribing options that are available elsewhere. In theory, Netflix or other services could have a method in the iOS app for users to enter their email addresses and then communicate with the users directly via email about payment options. These are some highlights from the settlement.

Following a productive dialogue, Apple and the plaintiffs in the Cameron et al v. Apple Inc. developer suit reached an agreement that identifies seven key priorities shared by Apple and small developers, which has been submitted to the judge presiding over the case for her approval.
  • In a validation of the App Store Small Business Program’s success, Apple and the developers agreed to maintain the program in its current structure for at least the next three years. Businesses earning less than $1 million annually will continue to benefit from the reduced commission, while larger developers pay the App Store’s standard commission on app purchases and in-app payments.
  • App Store Search has always been about making it easy for users to find the apps they’re looking for. At the request of developers, Apple has agreed that its Search results will continue to be based on objective characteristics like downloads, star ratings, text relevance, and user behavior signals. The agreement will keep the current App Store Search system in place for at least the next three years.
  • To give developers even more flexibility to reach their customers, Apple is also clarifying that developers can use communications, such as email, to share information about payment methods outside of their iOS app. As always, developers will not pay Apple a commission on any purchases taking place outside of their app or the App Store. Users must consent to the communication and have the right to opt out.
  • Apple will also expand the number of price points available to developers for subscriptions, in-app purchases, and paid apps from fewer than 100 to more than 500. Developers will continue to set their own prices.
  • Apple will maintain the option for developers to appeal the rejection of an app based on perceived unfair treatment, a process that continues to prove successful. Apple has agreed to add content to the App Review website to help developers understand how the appeals process works.
  • Over the last several years, Apple has provided a great deal of new information about the App Store on apple.com. Apple agreed to create an annual transparency report based on that data, which will share meaningful statistics about the app review process, including the number of apps rejected for different reasons, the number of customer and developer accounts deactivated, objective data regarding search queries and results, and the number of apps removed from the App Store.
  • Apple will also establish a fund to assist small US developers, particularly as the world continues to suffer from the effects of COVID-19. Eligible developers must have earned $1 million or less through the US storefront for all of their apps in every calendar year in which the developers had an account between June 4, 2015, and April 26, 2021 — encompassing 99 percent of developers in the US. Details will be available at a later date.

Additionally, Apple has announced a Small Developer Assistance Fund which will pay out between $250 to $30,000 to developers who are making under $1 million a year in the App Store. The amounts will vary based on the developer's " “historic participation in the App Store ecosystem.” For now, this fund is only available to developers in the U.S.

If you want to read the full brief, you can head over here and get all the information.

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